Policy-Making for Sustainable Agricultural Development

  • Tipakorn Senathip
  • Bahaudin G. MujtabaEmail author
  • Frank J. Cavico
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-31816-5_3421-1



  • Sustainability is the ability of an organization and its employees to effectively and efficiently manage their core economic responsibilities in maximizing long-term value while proactively respecting the environment and being accountable to all stakeholders in a transparent and timely manner.

  • Agriculture development refers to the idea of policy-makers providing assistance and resources to farmers and crop producers along with relevant assistance in research, best practices, technology, and pest control recommendations.


Leaders in both private and public sector organizations play an important role in bringing about positive and necessary developments in society. This function is especially an important consideration for public sector policy-makers when they look at the long-term effects of policy-making in economic and agricultural development. Farmers and citizens of any agrarian society tend to depend on the availability of local resources for their survival and independence. Furthermore, agricultural developments are important for communities to live in a sustainable manner using local products and resources.

This entry (A comprehensive version of this topic was published in Economy as follows: Senathip et al. (2017).) reflects on policy-making for economic progress, its importance, and how local leaders can take a developmental role in devising agriculture and sustainability approaches for local farmers, consumers, and communities. Suggestions and recommendations are provided which the authors trust will result in the betterment of people and the sustainability of societies.

Over the past decade, we have seen that many modern researchers focused on the responsibility of taking care of local communities, society as a whole, and the planet by being “sustainable” environmentally and in all aspects of life and work (Senathip et al. 2017). In some cases, one has seen friendly and even not-so-friendly protests when people are not happy with their current situation, especially economically, and want positive changes in their living and/or work environment. Fortunately, many people are now voluntarily trying to reduce waste, reuse what they can, recycle as much as possible, and renew by planting seeds or trees to replenish natural resources and by respecting the environment while keeping it clean and “green” (Cavico and Mujtaba 2016). Many companies and businesses are also going “above and beyond” the law and legal requirements to conserve energy and in some cases to actually produce energy; these companies are positive examples of “sustainable” firms.

Sustainability is defined as “the ability of an organization and its employees to effectively and efficiently manage their core economic responsibilities in maximizing long-term value, while proactively respecting the environment and being accountable to all stakeholders in a transparent and timely manner” (Mujtaba et al. 2016, p. 679). Mujtaba’s long-term view of sustainability will be used in this research since highly ethical people are likely to be driven by decisions that respect people and the environment while enhancing the quality of life for everyone in society.

Policy-Making and Development

According to Rissmiller (2000, p. 1), many writers and researchers ask how can we understand the “incredibly complex” process of policy change? Of course, there are many models and answers which have made important contributions to this understanding; but a good majority of them tend to rely on theory that is general in scope or very narrow and specific to a particular agency’s decision processes (Easton 1965a, b). As such, they are difficult to apply to all situations and cases. Some models are reliant on a single case which has a limited score of utility. Yet other models are derived from multiple regression or even more sophisticated statistical analysis that disregards dynamic change and situational variables. Thereby, some believe that the “scientific approaches to the study of policy-making processes are ill-designed to confront the apparently tremendous influence of personalities and chance events, the unique features of policies, and the unique and diverse range of environments in which policy is made” (Rissmiller 2000, p. 1). Rissmiller and other authors have recommended that the goal of policy theory should be to assist in understanding the role of causal elements in policy development regardless of whether they appear to be irregular and diverse or uniform and predictable. Accordingly, it is recommended that political scientists need to think and see “holistically” and thus to utilize systems thinking in their developmental policies. Unfortunately, systems thinking and dynamics are not taught in most political science curriculums and programs. However, systems thinking and dynamics have thrived in business applications due to the continuing work and commitment by people like Peter Senge and others at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Sloan School of Management.

Theory building and systems analysis have generated considerable interest in political sciences over the past century, especially up to 1965, as stimulated by David Easton’s writings on A Systems Analysis of Political Life. Easton’s work has been influential due to the fact that systems analysis has been identified as one of a handful of primary approaches to the study of political science and public policy (Rissmiller 2000; Anderson 1997; Dye 1998; Susser 1992).

According to researchers and writers (Jenkins 1978), public policy is defined differently by different authors, including the following definitions:
  1. 1.

    Public policy is whatever governments choose to do or not to do.

  2. 2.

    Public policy consists of political decisions for implementing programs to achieve societal goals.

  3. 3.

    Public policy is a purposive course of action followed by government in dealing with some topic or matter of public concern.

  4. 4.

    Public policy is the authoritative allocation of values for the whole society.

Public policy is defined “as a set of interrelated decisions taken by a political actor or group of actors concerning the selection of goals and the means of achieving them within a specified situation where those decisions should, in principle, be within the power of those actors to achieve” (Jenkins 1978, p. 44). Such a definition is not all-encompassing as it does not build implementation into the policy. As such, one does not always consider how a policy might be implemented. This definition makes clear that a Policy is more than a single decision as it can involve many actors/stakeholders (Ventriss 1989). Policy-making often involves a pattern of actions that extend over time and that might go through many decisions. Nonetheless, some critical points for consideration of such a definition and model can include the following elements:
  • It integrates the possibility of inaction (the decision not to move).

  • It separates policy from ambition.

  • It links policy decisions to available resources.

All policies tend to have multiple direct and indirect stakeholders. A stakeholder (actor) can be any person, group, or institution that has an interest in a development activity, project, or program.

The stakeholder definition includes both intended beneficiaries and intermediaries, “winners or losers,” and those involved or excluded from decision-making process. Therefore, public policy should be considered as much more than simply governmental “outputs” because simply focusing on output alone may result in a partial and incomplete view of the dynamics and totality of public policy (Miyakawa 2000). Policy analysts, therefore, should deal with the separation of content and process, to wit: (a) policy content – the substance of policy – and (b) policy process, the given set of methods, strategies, and techniques by which a policy is made (Jenkins 1978).

Overall, one can summarize that policy-makers should focus on how policies actually govern; and they should ask other questions that relate to why a policy must govern as they consider the ultimate well-being of all people in society (Rissmiller 2000). As part of the policy development process, there can be a market orientation which focuses on privatization, marketization, and contracting out, which business actions hopefully will provide competition, thereby making products and services better and cheaper for consumers. There should also be a dialogue orientation in order to focus on interaction between government agencies and civic groups. “Civic responsibility emphasizes obligations that citizens have to their society, and their government” (UNF Lecture 2016, p. 7). Civic responsibility focuses on the relationship of citizens to their government and society and especially the obligations of citizens to their society.

Economic Development of Nations

The World Development Reports, similar to most of their other similar studies, provide a review of how the world economy is often plagued, beset, challenged, and, at times, overwhelmed by severe economic problems while also paving the way for opportunities toward the growth and development of all nations through specific recommendations for policy-making and implementation. These reports review development prospects in the international economy while offering recommendations for adjustments and opportunities in industrial, developing, and poor countries. For example, the World Bank’s (1982) report found that, although international prospects had become worse in that time period, it also was forecasted that during the coming decade the leaders and policy-makers of the middle-income countries should work on narrowing the income gap between themselves and the industrial countries of the world.

The prospects for some of the low-income countries remained a matter of grave concern for leaders and local policy-makers. According to the report, agriculture remained the main source of income for about 70% of the population in developing countries and for the vast majority of those people who are living in the world’s poorest nations.

Developing Countries

Just a few decades ago, many developing countries were struggling with large debt repayments and saw their problems further exacerbated by the rise in interest payments, adverse impact of regional or global trade, and depressed export volumes. The low-income countries which make up the bulk of where poverty is concentrated seem to have a bleak future lacking major opportunities for education and health development. Perhaps due to centralized and stable governments, heavily populated countries like China and India have managed to maintain consistent growth in the 1970s; as such, these two countries are less likely to be negatively affected by the adverse international environment’s changing landscape. However, the smaller low-income countries with large export sectors tend to see more of bleak future in the decades to come. Some of these countries are in Africa and fared badly in the 1970s as they did not receive developmental assistance from outsiders. Their progress has been heavily dependent on the generosity and aid from the international community. Overall, big improvement opportunities are likely to come from reforms in education, health, and better agriculture developments. Over the past several decades, growing interdependence through trade and migrations of people for business has strengthened the forces of economic expansion around the world. In the meantime, these interdependencies have also transmitted challenges and problems from country to country in parallel with the economic benefits.

Data shows that many of the developing countries adjusted better than the industrial countries during the mid-1970s, while the low-income countries were hit hard by the recession at the time. This can be seen from the fact that economic growth was slow in the poorest countries during that time period, despite the improvements made in the quality of life. Perhaps due the interdependence of global community, during the 1970s, most developing countries adjusted fairly well to the turbulent conditions and recession in the world economy. These countries grew about twice as fast as the industrial countries during that decade. The developing countries were able to borrow more income from the international community; and they made good use of their additional resources.

Development Opportunities

Development prospects for the international economy had worsened in some decades, partially due to the lingering recession in the industrial countries, especially because some of them had leaned toward the threat of taking protectionist measures. Other reasons for the worsening of the international economy could be attributed to the “developing countries’ adverse terms of trade and depressed export volumes; high and more volatile interest rates that limit borrowing; and large debt repayment burdens” (World Bank 1982, p. 2). When these challenges are not solved quickly, the barriers to growth could condemn the world to long-term sluggish growth, which can have negative ripple effects throughout the world due to the increased interdependence.

During recessionary times, major priorities for industrial countries should include the restoration of their own economic health and continued growth through the maintenance of a liberal environment for trade. In the early 1980s, while external finance accounted for 13% of the total investment in developing countries (or 4% of world savings), it made important contributions by providing imports of machinery, materials, and other technological necessities for efficiency. External finance also helped to cushion balance of payment shocks which can be experienced due to economic upheavals and recessions.

In terms of developments, data from the 1970s suggests that most developing countries weathered the economic disruptions and challenges with effective approaches. Overall, local and international policy-makers should stress the importance of several factors such as continually increasing levels of domestic savings and investment, improving the efficient use of available capital, and effectively managing all external debts. Accordingly, it is clear that the foundation for development over the longer term requires the strengthening of economic management by developing an effective strategy for the near future which should include greater priority to agriculture.

Agricultural Developments

The atmosphere and character of world agriculture has changed significantly and positively during the latter part of the past century. “In the developed countries, scientific research together with the increased use of industrial technology, chemical fertilizers, and machinery have revolutionized production and marketing” (World Bank 1982, p. 4). However, some elements of this uprising have produced widely differing performance and progress.

Data from the last few decades of the past century shows that the industrial countries protect agriculture to maintain parity or equality in incomes generated or earned by farmers and those of other workers in the economy. Some believe that “This protection is extremely expensive unnecessarily so, since it has spurred increases in agricultural output beyond economically justified levels and has seriously distorted international comparative advantage” (World Bank 1982, p. 5). Therefore, the challenge for policy-makers is to adjust domestic policies as needed to build an effective trading system in which mutual comparative advantage can play a positive role in local production. Rapid and relevant progress on a continuous basis through effective policies for sufficient agricultural production is clearly desirable to enlarge the developing countries’ access to markets and, in the long run, to ensure that the world’s agrarian resources are more efficiently used to increase per capita supplies of food for local, regional, and international consumers.

According to the World Bank report, “continuing progress in agriculture is of vital importance to the developing world,” because of many reasons, including the fact that “Close to two-thirds of the population draws its livelihood from agriculture as farmers and farm workers…Driven by population and income growth, the demand for food in the developing economies is likely to increase by at least a third over the next decade” (World Bank 1982, p. 89). Agricultural exports have accounted for about 30% of most developing countries’ total merchandise export earnings, and they will continue to be “the main category of exports for over two-thirds of these countries” (World Bank 1982, p. 90).

Development Recommendations

Plainly, policy-makers in the public sector play a dominant and important role in providing relevant infrastructure and large-scale irrigation systems for agricultural efficiency and development. Yet, there are no universal package of prescriptions that can be offered for all nations and economies. The reality is that such elements as nature, climate, feasible cropping systems, available technology and the means to acquire and use it all vary too widely for any simple formula to make sense.

The proper and efficient use of water for irrigation, drainage, and flood control is a major source of increased productivity (Mujtaba 2014 and 2015; U-Tantada, Mujtaba, Yolles, and Shoosanuk 2016). If farmers are able to adopt to and to use new varieties of seeds and apply the right amount of fertilizer, then they must be assured of adequate supplies of water are delivered in a timely manner so they can stay in business and make a small profit that can be applied to the future of their business. Such governmental assistance or aid by the international community has provided high rates of return, though it requires considerable investment and strong leadership by local organizations. Private sector irrigation and sustainable technology usage remain important factors in boosting agricultural output in all nations around the world. In the future, especially in developing and poorer countries, the size and collective nature of the investments in agricultural developments will require heavy reliance on public sector irrigation. Of course, cooperation of various stakeholders is important as the private sector can complement the work of policy-makers in the public sector (World Bank 1982, p. 50).

The world is adopting to new technologies every single day, while more and more people are moving into bigger cities thereby relying even more on crops of fresh foods. Therefore, “with urbanization and the growth of the cash economy, marketed food production will need to increase very rapidly” (World Bank 1982, p. 6). Adapting to the new environment will require considerable investments by both farmers and governments in crop storage, processing it efficiently and transporting it quickly to retailers and consumers in a timely manner. Consequently, there is a greater need for policy-makers and government officials to carefully consider their respective roles in financing and managing relevant investments for socially responsible long-term growth, adaptability to the changing needs of consumers, and the sustainability of operations in the environment and ultimately of society itself.

Overall, research and technological advancements need to be developed and adapted to local conditions that farmers face each year. Government or internationally financed projects in agriculture developments are often necessary to overcome major obstacles, to demonstrate how to increase output of one’s hard work in the crops being produced, and to assist in devising relevant programs to benefit the poorest populations in rising above poverty levels. Oftentimes, major investments in irrigation, transportation, and marketing networks are only available from external sources like the government or international community.

In summary, it is apparent that the world’s population is continuing to rise, and, thus, the increase in demand for food has important implications that go well beyond agriculture itself. In the 1980s, about 8% of the food was eaten in developing countries, and 9% of all agricultural products available was supplied by imports. As such, developing countries have had a strong reliance on exports for the consumption of their food supplies. “The past therefore provides a clear guide for the future” (World Bank 1982, p. 91). Now, one sees that the main constraints on agricultural growth do not necessarily lie in the behavior of farmers as they are motivated to work hard and to take advantage of new innovations. The constraints are in the environment in which farmers operate, the technologies that are available to them, the access to usable land, and the incentives for production and investment. Furthermore, other main constraints can include the availability and price of fertilizer, establishment of easily accessible irrigation, and marketing resources.

If the past is any guide, policy improvements could achieve dramatic results. The rise in agricultural output over the past four decades of the last century had confounded the predictions of famine which were common in the 1950s and 1960s. Unfortunately, many people still suffer from shortages of food and suffer hunger and even famine in the modern world. One point that can be made is that: “If agricultural technologies can be improved, additional resources mobilized, and appropriate policies adopted in industrial and developing countries, then faster agricultural growth will be achieved. Economic development, particularly of the poorer countries, will speed up. And poverty will be reduced” (World Bank 1982, p. 93).

Sustainable Social Responsibility

An important value for current policy-makers and future leaders is to create policies that would encourage people to act in a socially responsible manner by being cognizant of “sustainability,” a concept tied to the values of law, ethics, and social and environmental responsibility. The most frequently cited definition of sustainable development was published by the United Nations (Our Common Future, chapter 2, Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development 1987, p. 24): “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainability is a broad and all-encompassing concept since it can be interpreted as a MEANS (typically in the form of beneficial environmental actions, such as “green” buildings and offices, reducing greenhouse gasses, and otherwise reducing the firm’s “environmental footprint”) and also as an END (i.e., having a sustainable organization, society, as well as a sustainable planet, for future generations).

An important challenge for policy-makers is that each person is expected to act in a socially and environmentally responsible manner (Cheretis and Mujtaba 2014). The societal expectation of this responsibility is thus above and beyond the law as well as morality/ethics (Cavico et al. 2015). Business, therefore, is expected to be a “good corporate citizen” (even though there may be no legal obligation to do so). Social and environmental responsibility is related to sustainability as a goal; that is, if we restore or preserve our natural resources and communities, we will also increase our chances of sustaining as a business. The old concept of seeing the purpose of business as only short-term profit is being increasingly replaced by a broader and more socially responsible “accounting” framework, which includes three dimensions of measurement: “People, Planet, Profits,” also called the “Triple Bottom Line” – economic prosperity, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility (Cavico et al. 2015).

The rationale for being socially and environmentally responsible, and one that must be underscored to the future leaders throughout their socialization in the company, is the maximization of their own self-interest along with that of their firms, communities, and society as a whole. That is, the instrumental worth of being a “socially responsible” person and organization, in addition to being a legal and moral one, will be the advancement of one’s own self-interest, the company’s self-interest, and the corresponding benefit to community and society as a whole as well as the sustainability of the planet for future generations.

As leaders, we can create the best future by planning for it with specific goals, organizing and devoting relevant resources, having milestones which are precise and can be measured and reported, and specifying action plans that can be controlled. Leadership is about having a vision, influence, and the ability to execute a practical strategy into action; and this ability should be used to make society a little better through the sustainable operations in each organization. The authors have emphasized that the business leader today will confront societal expectations that the business will not merely act in a prudent economic and correct legal manner but also that the business will act in a moral and ethical and socially and environmentally responsible manner. Business leaders in the public as well as private sectors must take the lead in emphasizing legality, morality, ethics, social responsibility, and sustainability in all their decision-making processes.


The objective of sustainable global leadership and policy-making is to make sure the processes used for economic developments along with their associated outcomes more sustainable. This mind-set is the way to achieve long-term economic success and sustainability; and thus future business leaders must be developed and prepared to do what is the essence of leadership and that is to know the way, go the way, and show the way. Consequently, the challenge for the policy-maker today is to have that mind-set and thus to fulfill these expectations, meet these challenges, achieve success, and to sustain that success for the business and all its stakeholders including society as a whole, the planet, and future generations.

If public sector policy-makers, leaders, and managers do have a higher level of ethical maturity and sustainability consciousness, then specific positive recommendations will benefit everyone in society so all people can achieve a higher level of ethical, moral, and social responsibility awareness and action and thus contribute to and help build sustainable societies and a sustainable planet for future generations.



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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tipakorn Senathip
    • 1
  • Bahaudin G. Mujtaba
    • 2
    Email author
  • Frank J. Cavico
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of International StudiesRamkhamhaeng UniversityBangkokThailand
  2. 2.The H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and EntrepreneurshipNova Southeastern UniversityFort LauderdaleUSA